Jan 24, 2012

A tempest in a "Downton" teapot?

Britain's Daily Mail reports that producers of the ITV drama — and current Masterpiece smash hit — Downton Abbey "are less than happy after an American TV network launched a collection of somewhat tasteless themed jewelry." PBS had featured several items similar to what Downton characters wear on its ShopPBS website.

Supposedly, producers Carnival Films "were forced to call in lawyers" in an attempt to stop PBS "from naming jewelry after the show’s most famous character, Lady Mary Crawley." Carnival, "which has approved an official range of Downton DVDs and books, was horrified to find that PBS, its broadcast partner, was cashing in on the show’s popularity," the paper wrote.

"The ‘Lady Mary knotted pearl necklace and earring set,’ available for £102 ($159.99), was doing a roaring trade until Downton producers complained," it noted.

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler tackled the topic in a column today (Jan. 24). PBS told him in a statement: "ShopPBS obtained jewelry from a number of third-party vendors and placed them within a collection of products dedicated to Downton Abbey. An email from the business affairs office of NBC/Carnival was received requesting that we remove these items. PBS complied immediately and the products are no longer being offered."

A cached version of the Downton jewelry and accessories page on may be seen here.

UPDATE:  “There is no dispute," a Carnival Films rep tells, the online home of NBC's Today show, adding that the request to remove the jewelry from the PBS shopping site “was part of an ongoing conversation with PBS. It isn’t a big issue. We didn’t want viewers to think this was the jewelry that the characters wore.”

KPCC hires former Los Angeles Times editor to oversee content

Former Los Angeles Times Editor Russ Stanton has joined pubradio station KPCC as its new vice president of content, the station announced Tuesday (Jan. 24). Stanton's arrival "is part of an aggressive effort by the nonprofit news organization to become the preeminent regional source for both broadcast and online news — with deeper, more enterprising and investigative coverage," according to a story on the KPCC website.

Stanton had left the newspaper last month in what was called a "mutual decision" with Times President Kathy Thomson. During his four years at the helm, the paper won three Pulitzer Prizes, including a prestigious Public Service award. At KPCC, Stanton will be responsible for the station's broadcasts, website and live events coverage; one of his first duties will be to select an executive editor supervise daily operations of the newsroom on broadcast and digital platforms.

The hire is part of plans by Southern California Public Radio to more than double KPCC's 57-person newsroom by July 2014, a response to last year’s Knight Commission report that criticized public broadcasting’s inadequate commitment to local journalism (Current, Oct. 18, 2011). Its board has approved a plan to raise $24 million to do so. The nonprofit has raised some $8 million so far and hired 20 staffers for its news department in the past year. Thirteen more, including producers, editors, bloggers and hosts, will come onboard this year.

Docs on PBS garner three Oscar nods

Three documentaries on PBS have received Academy Award nominations, announced today (Jan. 24). In the documentary feature category are "Hell and Back Again" from Independent Lens, which follows a U.S. soldier back from Afghanistan after a serious injury; and POV's "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front,” which explores both environmentalism and terrorism by examining a radical environmental group the FBI calls the country’s “number one domestic terrorism threat.”

POV also received a nomination for documentary short subject for "The Barber Of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement," the story of James Armstrong, an African-American barber who experiences the fulfillment of an unimaginable dream, the election of the country's first African-American president.

WNET releases second online game for middle schoolers, "Flight to Freedom"

"Flight to Freedom," the second in the Mission U.S. series of educational role-playing online games for middle-school students, was released today (Jan. 24) by WNET/Thirteen in New York City, timed in advance of Black History Month. The game immerses players in the experiences of a runaway slave in the years before the Civil War, the station said in a press release. Its development was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The first game in the series, 2010's “For Crown or Colony?” introduced players to Nat Wheeler, a 14-year-old printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston who was forced to decide if he supported the Patriots or Loyalists.

I'll Make Me a World festival, inspired by PBS mini-series, to draw thousands in Iowa

An annual event that began as an outreach for the 1999 PBS mini-series I'll Make Me a World is still going strong in Iowa, and organizers expect it to draw some 20,000 participants Friday and Saturday, reports the Des Moines Register.  The celebration of African-American heritage, I'll Make Me a World in Iowa, kicks off Black History Month in the state. At the original gathering in 1999, "the prediction was for 300 people to attend, but 1,000 showed up — and now we’ve grown to 15,000 to 20,000 and become a premier arts and cultural organization offering a world-class event,” said Betty Andrews, the festival's executive director. “It’s a blessing to those of us who work to make this happen, and we hope it’s a blessing to those who come and learn and enjoy.” Headliners this year are actor Shemar Franklin Moore of the CBS drama Criminal Minds, and R&B singer Kenny Lattimore.
I'll Make Me a World was a CPB-backed, six-hour mini-series on African-American artists from Henry Hampton, best known for his acclaimed Eyes on the Prize documentary.